Indonesian Muslim leaders, educators visit Israel

March 20, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A group of nine prominent Indonesian Islamic leaders and educators recently visited Israel on a special mission under the auspices of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Rambam Program.

The delegation meets Yuval Rotem [centre in blue shirt]

The trip, “In the Footsteps of Gus Dur”, honoured the memory of former Indonesian President and religious leader, Abdurrahman Wahid (“Gus Dur”), who had led moves to improve Jewish-Muslim understanding globally, as well as Israeli-Indonesian relations.

This was the third group of influential Indonesian Muslim figures to participate in the program.

The mission included interfaith, cross-cultural and peace dialogues in cities and towns across Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Muslim, Jewish and Christian learning organised by expert facilitators as well as meetings and briefings with Israeli and Palestinian commentators and officials.

Highlights of the program included a meeting with Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Israeli Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem, prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque, several meetings with Arab Israelis, and interactions with the Roots dialogue centre near Beit Umar and at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa.

Shabbat prayers at an orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, followed by a Shabbat meal in the synagogue’s rabbi’s home, and interfaith communal study and prayer with the group “Praying Together in Jerusalem”, provided authentic and meaningful engagements with living Judaism.

When a planned trip to Sderot had to be cancelled due to a wave of rocket attacks from Gaza, the group took the opportunity for an impromptu visit to Jerusalem’s Machon Meir Yeshiva, whose hashgofa, or approach to Judaism, is aligned with that of Israel’s national religious movement. There, the group engaged in interfaith dialogue with the head of the yeshiva Rabbi Dov Begon and observed Talmudic study in situ. At the yeshiva, one of the Islamic educators noted some parallels between Jewish method of study based on commentary on Biblical texts and the way Islam is taught in Indonesia.

The visit also included security briefings in the Golan Heights and on the Lebanese border, meeting with professors and a tour of experiments in greenhouses at Hebrew University’s agricultural school and a look into humanitarian aid at the organisation Save a Child Heart, which performs lifesaving surgery for Palestinians, Africans and others in need.

Prior to the mission, Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of International and of Community Affairs, toured Indonesia for a series of lectures at Islamic educational institutions, interfaith dialogue and meetings with media, political and civil society leaders, during which time he met potential candidates for this group, as well as for future groups.

The group was accompanied by AIJAC Senior Policy Analyst Ahron Shapiro. “On numerous occasions, members of the group expressed appreciation about the richness of culture in Israel, Shapiro said. “They found exposure to Jewish life there, and the multicultural and interfaith coexistence in daily Israeli life, to be fascinating, enriching and illuminating.”

Jeremy Jones noted that participants in previous delegations were very active in helping Muslims in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country develop a better relationship with Jews and Judaism and a more nuanced understanding of Israel.

He said: “AIJAC is both pioneer and leader in Jewish engagement with Indonesia, having earned a reputation for integrity, honesty and a genuine desire to build a respectful, sophisticated relationship.”

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